Practical ideas for facilitating workshops & people development

Archive for the ‘Our workshops’ Category

Coo-ee Collective

COO-EE-Main-Version1Living in the country for most of life I have often been envious of the professional development opportunities and professional association meetings available to my city counterparts. The ability to finish work and join an event with like minded professionals when you work in regional areas requires planning, travel and time.

For years I have been using web based “on line rooms” to deliver training, facilitate and run meetings with regional participants. My first attempt was in the early 2000’s when we ran a Government funded trial using the school of the air system to provide training for rural women in South Australia. The success of this pilot and the seeing the excitement for women being given an opportunity from the home office inspired me to persist with the technology – which still often lets us down.

As the technology is getting cheaper, easier and more accessible to use I have decided to combine my passion for mentoring and developing people with this virtual technology.

And so the Coo-ee Collective has been founded! Initially Coo-ee will focus on providing virtual mentoring for groups of people in agriculture and regions, other products will be added over time.

Our pilot mentoring group is well underway with seven rural women from across Australia and one from New Zealand meeting once a month to provide support, inspiration and share ideas with each other. Susie Green from SA is one of the participants – her comments are below…

“Coo-ee Collective has overcome geographical barriers to provide me with a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded rural women from across Australia and New Zealand. It provides a safe, structured and supportive environment to share experiences and emotions without judgement, competition or jealousy. It allows participants to be vulnerable without fear of shame and support each other as we work through challenges.” – Susie Green

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2013-02-05 13.13.52The ORID technique came into my life during the first facilitation workshop I ever attended and I have found it to be an extremely useful tool.

As described by R Brian Stanfield in his book, The Art of Focused Conversation, the ORID provides a framework for conversations to solve a problem, make a decision, evaluate an event, generate commitment, explore options or to build on a vision. His book provides 100 examples of using the technique in our everyday life.

I find it particularly useful as a review or evaulation process and to assist with decision making. So how does it work?

O Objective question – these are the questions to analyse the facts and external reality. I often think of this as the ‘head’ or logic questions. Examples include :

  • What are the topics we have talked about today?
  • What is the financial position?
  • What are the key facts?
  • What were the most important facts in this report?

R Reflective question – this checks in with how we feel about the situation or the facts. It focuses us on the personal internal reaction. I think of it as the heart question – what emotions or feelings do we have.

  • What surprised you in the presentation?
  • What challenged your thinking?
  • Where have you been frustrated by the process?
  • What’s it like to be in this situation?

I Interpretive question – these questions aim to examine the meaning, the values and the significance of the topic. Interpretive questions provide the opportunity to draw out the significance of the O and the R. For me it’s the gut question – what does this mean for me?

  • What does this mean for the organisation
  • What challenges need to be resolved?
  • What are the key messages in the workshop?
  • What alternatives are worth considering?

D Decisional question – aim to bring a resolve to the conversation, a consensus, create an action plan or steps forward.

  1. What will you differently as a result of this workshop?
  2. What is the first step?
  3. What kind of future situations could these learnings be applied to?
  4. What would you do differently next time?

It is particularly important not to overlook the impact of the reflective questions – the feeling and emotions when we are making a decision. We are comfortable dealing with logic and often go straight from facts to interpretation without dealing with the  feelings as we perceive them to be more challenging to quantify.  Feelings and emotion are an important part of decision making and when overlooked actions are often not followed through on or decisions are regretted later.

For more information on the ORID I highly recommend Brian Stanfields, The Art of Focused Conversation – 100 Ways to Access Group Wisdom in the Workplace, (2000) published by The Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs. My well worn copy has been a valuable facilitation and coaching resource.

Do we need Extension training?

2013-04-04 16.21.18Evaluation of projects is not always done well. Good quality feedback not only provides information for reporting it also shapes the future of programs.

As part of our GRDC Extension Adoption Training and Support Program we work with Jeff Coutts and conduct regular surveys to monitor progress as well as developing case studies with participants. The information collected has assisted us to modify the content of the program and improve relevance to our audience.

Mike Roberts has been preparing the case studies for us and has put together the following article as an overview of the outcomes from our program. I thought I would share this with you as an example of an evaluation method which can  then be used to promote a program and also because we are very proud of the outcomes that are being achieved.

Rave Reviews

Are you an experienced advisor or researcher interested in practical ways to turbo charge your effectiveness in adoption, extension, evaluation and communication processes? This GRDC funded course is about to open up its fourth intake and if the rave reviews from the first three years of operation are anything to go by then you’d better be quick to apply for one of the eight places available for 2014.

This program aims to reduce the time frame from research findings becoming available to actual changes in farmer practice. Successful applicants can expect the following:

  • A three day workshop in Canberra where participants develop a comprehensive understanding of GRDC and build skills and knowledge in personality types, adoption, evaluation and extension theory and frameworks.
  • A three day field tour providing exposure to new technology and research as well as an opportunity to apply the theory discussed in Canberra.
  • Webinars to further develop skills and discuss learning and outcomes.
  • Mentoring and coaching with the project team
  • Participants will develop an action plan and apply their learnings in the field as well as mentoring a younger member of the industry.
  • An ongoing network will provide the opportunity to continue sharing skills and knowledge amongst the group post training.

Here are some comments from participants who have already completed the program:

Brendan Green is the Technical Business Development officer for Roberts Ltd based in Hobart in Tasmania.

  • After learning about the role of Social Media in the course Brendan has been instrumental in setting up 12 Facebook pages for various branches across the state. “We are having an impact from the messages we are posting. Whatever the topic, we are now able to create more awareness than we could have previously. The message is getting through to a larger number of clients and they are finding out about things that they wouldn’t necessarily know about just because of social media.”
  • After learning about communication skills Brendan reflected thathe used to “give a lot of technical information. Now it is about trying to get staff to simplify the message so it will be easier for the farmer to understand.”
  • “Success in the relationships that you build is very important. People skills are the most important things.”
  • “It is a very good program well worth the time and involvement. You will get a lot of things out of it that are very beneficial for your business.”

Bob Ronald is an agronomist employed by Landmark in Albury, NSW. He deals mainly with broadacre clients on both dryland and irrigated farms.

  • It really helped my ability to deal with my growers one on one and then as a group.”
  • “The people skills offered in the program were a major attraction. This program hit a whole lot of triggers that I had been thinking about. It’s not just about killing weeds; it is dealing with humans.

Kent Wooding is the General Manager of Agrivision Consultants based in Swan Hill in Victoria. He manages a group of 15 agronomy consultants who assist farmers with farm and paddock planning, general agronomy, implementation of weed and pest control and precision agriculture.

  • “We have often been critical of people doing research and not effectively communicating results. The course taught me that we were falling into the same trap, as we did some great research but we weren’t always getting it all out to the people where it mattered the most. We are now addressing that.”
  • After learning that not everyone has the same preferential learning style, Kent now actively varies the elements in presentations. “So if I can deliver it in several different ways then parts of it will appeal to most people.”
  • “I have changed the way I mentor staff since doing this course. I think our agronomists are now developing skills at a faster rate as a result.”
  • “The EATS program has given me a better understanding of who I am and how I can deal with people. It has certainly given me a lot of motivation and invigorated me to go out and make changes in the business. I have made some good friends as well along the way, which is good!”
  • “I have successfully established a social media strategy for the business. This was something I have been thinking about for a long time but the course gave me the information and confidence to go ahead with it.”
  • “I would say that it is valuable and a must attend!”

Felicity Turner is a private agricultural consultant and the facilitator for the MacKillop Farm Management Group in the Upper SE of South Australia.

  • “The topic on personality types and extension methodology changed the whole way I think about delivering information.”
  • Prior to attending the course, Felicity says that surveys were ‘the bane of my existence and I hated them. Where I used to do surveys just to satisfy funding bodies, I now know how to actually extract the information I need to make changes to improve the project and get better outcomes.”
  • “As a whole it has really made me re-think the way that I extend information to people. I now know that I need to look at different methods to take into account different people to try to get the message across.”
  • “I think if I had done this ten years ago I would have changed so many things. Now I look back and think gosh, what was I doing? I could have been doing it so much better!”
  • “One of the most valuable parts of the course was the chance to spend three or four days interacting with other participants on the field trip to WA. The geographical and occupational mix of the participants really added value. That is where you really learn from others and it was fantastic.”

If you are interested in the GRDC Extension, Adoption, Training and Support program or know someone who could be please contact Ag Consulting Co for more information: 

Applications close 30 October 2013

Extension Adoption Program

The GRDC Extension, Adoption, Training and Support project is open for expressions of interest until October 30th. This project builds the skills of experienced advisers and researchers in adoption, extension, evaluation and communication processes. It aims to reduce the time frame from from research to farmer practice change.

In it’s third year 8 advisers will be selected to participate in the program which includes

  • A three day workshop in Canberra where participants develop a comprehensive understanding of GRDC and build skills and knowledge in personality types, adoption, evaluation and extension theory and frameworks.
  • A three day field tour providing exposure to new technology and research as well as an opportunity to apply the theory discussed in Canberra.
  • Webinars to further develop skills and discuss learning and outcomes.
  • Mentoring and coaching with the project team

Participants will develop an action plan and apply their learnings in the field as well as mentoring a younger member of the industry. An ongoing network will provide the opportunity to continue sharing skills and knowledge amongst the group post training.

Applications are open for the 2013 group, expressions of interest close on the 30th October. To download the EOI form

Or watch the You-Tube

Ignite Leadership Coaching

The Ignite Leadership Coaching Course is one of those training events that made me go WOW! I did the training with Tony Draper from the Forton Group and Sharon Honner a couple of years ago in Queensland.

I was so impressed I went back to Queensland in October last year and completed the course again along with the Train the Trainer so Sharon and I could facilitate this course together.

We facilitated our first workshop in Adelaide late in June and were thrilled with the feedback we received. We were very fortunate to have Tony come to Adelaide to support us as we facilitated this for the first time.

The Forton Group is an international organisation who has designed The Professional Leadership Coach Training Programme to meet the needs of organisations and the people who work in them. The Programme is accredited with the International Coach Federation, and consists of four modules – The Ignite workshop being the first of these.

The concept of coaching is often not clearly understood as we often relate to Sports Coaching or coaching for a skill. The Forton Group define coaching as “Supporting people to get what they want, without doing it for them, or telling them what to do. The coaching conversation is an art, a science and a practice.”

In contrast to a mentor who has experience in a field and acts as a guide, a coach knows how to ask great questions so the coachee can discover for themselves and experience their own journey.

I also particularly like the Forton Groups definition of leadership; “Leadership is about people being successful and enabling success in others. Leadership is more than a position: it is who we are, what we achieve and how we do it.”

The Ignite Leadership Coaching is the foundation course, it introduces the professional leadership coaching model. It touches on emotional intelligence, how we coach to develop peoples’ emotional capacity, introduces the model and focuses on leadership vision and accessing resources.

Sharon and I hope to offer this fantastic program again later in 2012 or early in the new year. If this sounds of interest to you let us know.

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Facilitation Skills workshop

On Thursday and Friday last week Sharon and I facilitated our “Facilitation Skills Workshop”. We enjoyed working with our enthusiastic participants in this interactive workshop.

The workshop aims to provide practical hands-on skills to facilitate effective sessions.

Our focus for facilitation is – a structured session where participants are guided through a process to achieve an outcome. The outcome is created, accepted and understood by all.

The facilitator is “content free” their role is to guide the group to achieve an outcome, not to have knowledge of the topic. They draw the information from the group in an inclusive manner so all have ownership in the outcome.

This concept can be a challenge for people who normally provide information to, or chair, a group of people. It requires a change in mind set from being in control to being there to build consensus.

Our next “Facilitation Skills” workshop in scheduled for November 1st and 2nd in Adelaide.

This workshop was funded by GRDC and DAFF Caring for Country as part of the Grain and Graze 2 program, Adaptive Management theme for East SA. This project is managed by the Ag Excellence Alliance. 

Thankyou for the comments about my last couple of blogs – I’m sorry I haven’t answered them – I will soon. Look forward to continuing to hear your thoughts. Jeanette

Resilience Workshop

Jeanette Long and Sharon Honner from Ag Consulting Co facilitated “Building Resilience Workshop” at Bowhill last Friday as part of the Adaptive Management component of Grain and Graze 2.

This workshop has been designed by Jacky Dakin and Kathryn McEwen, Organisational Physiologists in Adelaide. It aims to build understanding in what makes us personally resilient – able to bounce back from difficult times. Participants gain an understanding in how to monitor and manage their own resilience as well as those around them.

The workshop provides practical strategies to assist in coping with the daily pressures many of us face on farms. It includes building emotional, physical and mental resilience.

Participants discussed strategies to cope with situations such as drought. Depression awareness was also discussed; warning signs in themselves and others, as well as the first steps in seeking assistance.

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